Every time I read of drunken noisy celebrations from assorted people following Margaret Thatcher’s death… every time I read of someone spewing vitriol and spitting on her memory… every time I read “Ding Dong The Witch is Dead“… my smile grows ever so slightly wider.
Why? Well I think I may have given a clue why I was likely to think this way a few days ago when I wrote this:
I would not have described myself as a libertarian back then even though I more or less was (and indeed I was only vaguely aware of the term, preferring ‘Classical Liberal’ in the non-debased non-US sense). And I still do not call myself one really, even though I more or less am. But for more than a decade I did indeed take delight in calling myself a Thatcherite (even though I only ‘kinda’ was), primarily because it was a wonderful shortcut for discovering all I needed to know about whoever I was speaking to at that time, just by watching their reactions.
Maggie Thatcher pissed off all the right people and I swung her name around like a handbag with a brick in it.
Before Margaret Thatcher took power, we had a Tory party lead by Edward Health… a man who was frankly so indistinguishable from the people he purported to oppose that his ‘conservative’ government nationalised several businesses. The broad statist political consensus amongst the Great and the Good (try not to spit when you read those words) was that the only thing to argue about was the rate at which the state took over, well, everything.
The Flat Caps and Beer Party and the Champagne and Barbour Party carried on a wonderful pantomime show of how they disdained each other and how they were like chalk and cheese, much as they do now, but in truth, it disguised just how much they had in common. Free(er) Markets were a talking point amongst some Tories but in truth they loved to intervene “before breakfast, dinner and tea”.
And then Maggie T started talking about free(er) markets and actually meaning it.
She polarised the Party and the country and that was exactly what was needed. She smashed the cosy consensus, over and over and over again… and many people hated her for it, which means it actually did some good.
And now, the late Margaret Hilda Thatcher is doing it again.
What we have at the moment is a toxic political consensus. We are all the same, we are all in agreement and (whispered aside) don’t worry, those ‘cuts’ in state spending are really just cuts in the rate of increase. You can trust David Cameron with the regulatory welfare state. And indeed you can.
Ok long suffering Middle England, just watch those people on the news and in the papers. And then look at that pallid ‘Conservative’ toad in Number 10 who has de facto nationalised Britain’s leading banks. Does he remind you of someone?
There are still neo-Thatcherites in the Tory party (David Davies most prominently) and then there is always the Joker in the deck of British politics, Nigel Farage, whose admiration for Maggie T has always been obvious even if she dropped the ball on Europe (as did many of us).
But there are few things better at flipping that switch in people’s heads than seeing unedifying hatred from people who reek of naked greed for the state extracted money of others.
And so every time I see people pouring out their bile for Thatcher, I smile and hope there is a TV camera around or a journalist happy to write down what they say. By their own words, they shall be revealed.
Oh Margaret, you really were the gift that just keeps on giving.